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Staff writer

Amy Humphries and her partner, Jodi Edwards, packed up their car Sunday afternoon and headed for shelter at Great Mills High School, taking with them only their most valuable and sentimentally precious possessions. They left their home in Town Creek, fearful that trees could crash through their house during Hurricane Sandy.

Humphries, Edwards and several dozen other St. Mary’s County residents sought shelter at one of the two local high schools set up for evacuees as Hurricane Sandy passed through the region at the beginning of the week. The shelters closed Tuesday morning after the worst of the storm had passed and residents were asked to go home.

“We had some giant oaks in our yard and we lost two in [Hurricane] Irene” last year, Humphries said Monday. Those trees fell next to the house and not on it, she said. However, there were two more leaning precariously toward the house.

Humphries said they had never evacuated to a shelter before.

“We were worried,” she said. “We figured better safe than sorry.” They could not be reached Tuesday by deadline to report if there was any damage to their home from the storm.

They brought with them a laptop computer and digital storage drives holding family photographs. “It’s amazing the things you can live without,” she said.

They also brought with them some comfort items, such as a quilt and favorite clothes. They kept some items stored in the vehicle outside Great Mills High School.

St. Mary’s County government opened emergency shelters at Great Mills and Leonardtown high schools starting Sunday at noon. Overnight Sunday there were about 24 people checked in at the Great Mills High shelter and about 10 at the Leonardtown High shelter. Overall, 50 people stayed at the shelter at Great Mills High School and 23 at Leonardtown High at some point during the storm.

Residents could bring pets to either shelter; they were then transported by animal control officers to be housed at the St. Mary’s County Fairgrounds. There were 26 pets, mostly dogs, taken to the fairgrounds, including a couple of strays. Four animal control officers remained with them during the storm.

Don Kidwell, a team leader for the shelters set up at the high schools who works with social services, said that his agency takes the lead during a shelter crisis, assisted by workers with the county’s health department and school system.

Some of the employees working the shelter in 12-hour shifts bring with them others, he said, who help with the set-up process or in other ways.

Any resident could come to the shelter at any time it was open. They were free to come and go, as long as they checked in and checked out, Kidwell said.

Elizabeth Leonard, who also arrived at the Great Mills shelter on Sunday, complimented the workers. “They have been spectacular,” she said. “I don’t know where I would be, honestly, without them.”

She had been staying at a local hotel until she was asked to leave, Leonard said, because the establishment tends to leak during heavy rain storms.

She said that the conditions are good, and that the food has been great. Monday morning she said there were several children at the shelter. They have been mostly hunkered in front of a television or playing games.

Wesley Snow, who rents a trailer at Langley Park in Great Mills, came to the shelter with his family after emergency workers arrived Sunday and advised him to evacuate. The park rests on the shore of the St. Mary’s River.

“They’re talking about the trailer park being wiped out,” Snow said Monday as winds whipped around the school.

They returned to their home Tuesday morning to find it intact; the river had not crested the bank, he said.

“They said we dodged a real good one this time... It’s good to be back home,” Snow said Tuesday from his home.

Snow’s teenage daughter went to stay with a friend, but his older son and youngest daughter went to Great Mills High School with him for Sunday and Monday nights.

“St. Mary’s County just has too many low-lying areas,” his son, Michael Snow, said.

While still at the shelter Monday, Michael said that while the shelter was convenient and helpful, he was worried about what would happen to the family if the trailer was washed away and the schools reopen.

“I actually had to go back to the trailer and finish laundry, at least to dry it,” Michael Snow said. He then walked back to Great Mills High with some of the clothing.

The family didn’t bring much else, they said. “Nothing that can’t be replaced,” the son said.